n 2012, Europa Star announced the takeover of La Joux-Perret by Citizen: “While all eyes were on China, and even the smallest Chinese investment in Swiss timekeeping was coming under intense scrutiny, news announced just before Baselworld took the Swiss watch community by surprise: the Japanese group Citizen had acquired movement and module manufacturer La Joux-Perret! Or, to be more precise, it had purchased the holding company Prothor which, as well as La Joux-Perret, includes component-maker Prototec and the high-end watch brand Arnold & Son. The transaction is reportedly in the region of CHF 65 million for turnover of around CHF 40 million and a workforce of 150 people.”
So where does La Joux-Perret stand a decade later? CEO Jean-Claude Eggen was appointed in 2020, “in the middle of Covid.” He says he joined a company in dire straits. “Production was almost at a standstill. The order books were practically empty, enough for three or four months’ turnover at best. We asked ourselves, what are we supposed to do?”
Let’s rewind. Back in 2001, long before the takeover by Citizen, Frédéric Wenger teamed up with some other investors to buy movement maker Jaquet SA. Its owner at the time, Jean-Pierre Jaquet, continued to be involved in the company, but in 2003 he became embroiled in legal issues. The new investors took control, began to develop the company, moved to new premises under a new name – La Joux-Perret – and enjoyed a decade of growth. Then, in 2012, some of the investors decided they wanted to recover their investment. La Joux-Perret began to reach out to groups as the best way to guarantee its future.
Citizen made the best offer, leaving La Joux-Perret free to continue to supply other brands. After the takeover, Frédéric Wenger remained at the helm. At that time, in 2012, he told Europa Star that the Manufacture was producing “some 50,000 movements and modules a year, ranging from relatively simple transformations on the 2892, 7750 or compatible calibres to significantly more complex constructions such as a split-seconds chronograph.” The company was also making an extra-thin calibre as well as two ranges of tourbillons “with superlative traditional finishing.”
However, by the time Jean-Claude Eggen – with 18 years in the business to his credit, including 12 with Swatch Group in Bangkok, France and Switzerland – took the reins, the situation had deteriorated and the manufacture was a shadow of its former self. The workforce had dwindled to just 90 people. “There was the tourbillon, a couple of manufacture movements and 15 versions of a chronograph on a Sellita or ETA base that was regularly sent back to customer service.”
Helped by a post-Covid return to normal and a resurgence of interest in well-made mechanical watches, Jean-Claude Eggen set about righting the ship. In earnest.
Power reserve, a key asset
The Swiss movement-making sector has changed considerably since 2012. ETA no longer supplies third parties. Powerful new actors have emerged and old names have gained in strength – the likes of Sellita or, more recently, Kenissi which is controlled by Tudor, Breitling and Chanel.
Jean-Claude Eggen’s first decision was to concentrate on the G100 base calibre, an automatic three hands/date that is compatible with the ETA 2824 and Sellita’s SW200. He was convinced power reserve was a key differentiator and so focused efforts and strategy on extending autonomy to an unprecedented 68 hours, at a similar price to competitors (the aforementioned SW200 and 2824).
- G100, automatic, three hands, date, 4 Hz, 68-hour power reserve.
The G100 is available with several executions from the Standard no- decoration version up to the Soigné version with Côtes de Genève, diamond-polished bevels, blued screws and a decorated rotor. Eggen’s intuition proved right, as the G100 has won new market share.
The soon-to-be-released G200 goes further still with a power reserve of 70 hours and record precision of +1/-3 seconds/day. A price of CHF 350 puts it in a similar bracket to Kenissi movements.
- L100 Chrono, automatic, date, 60-hour power reserve.
Chronographs, such as the newly developed in-house L100 range with automatic winding, are now integrated, column-wheel-operated and have a 60-hour power reserve. Dimensions are compatible with the ETA 7750 and the Sellita SW500A. Bi-compax, tri-compax, with or without date, GMT, even a bi-retrograde manual-winding version: the range extends to a dozen permutations, each with a choice of executions from Standard, with no decoration, to Top with Côtes de Genève, diamond-polished bevels, blued screws and blued column wheel, circular-graining on the barrel bridge and straight-graining.
“We don’t do politics”
Staff numbers are creeping back up. The manufacture currently employs 130 people and is looking to hire more, although bottlenecks in the mechanical watch sector are making recruitment difficult. According to Jean-Claude Eggen, “we’re producing 20 times more than in 2019. Order books are full until mid-2024. Only yesterday I took an order for 2025. In April-May, we’d turned over 226% more than at the same time last year.”
Who are La Joux-Perret’s customers? “Our biggest advantage is that we serve the entire industry. Prestige brands buy our manufacture tourbillons. Mid- to high-end SMEs buy our chronographs. Mid-range SMEs buy our standard movements and, something I’d like to emphasise, major group LVMH comes to us for quartz and also for our new solar-powered movement, developed with Citizen, that equips the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph. It’s a very interesting calibre.”
- D100 (ex-Peseux), manual-winding, 3 Hz, 50-hour power reserve.
He insists on the fact that “we don’t do politics. Everyone pays the same for the same standard of quality.”
The manufacture can perform virtually every stage in movement production: machining bridges and main plates, stamping, bar-turning, cutting, finishing, sandblasting, polishing, decoration including hand-chamfering, pre-assembly, lubrication and assembly. All movements are tested in its laboratory. There is a team dedicated to developing mechanical and quartz movements, another for prototypes, and a design team for the Arnold & Son and Angelus brands, both of which are also enjoying strong growth.
The company is investing in CNC and polishing machines, as well as in organisational improvements and stabilising processes. It emphasises the excellent value for money of its movements, their reliability and aesthetic qualities, and is proud of its capacity to think creatively.
- Manufacture Tourbillon: La Joux-Perret offers different versions of its Manufacture Tourbillon (flying, skeleton, haute horlogerie). It is available off the peg as a skeleton version designed in-house, in unlimited quantities, or it can be fully customised by the client in terms of finishes and materials. La Joux-Perret’s tourbillon range gives customers the ability to enter the sphere of Haute Horlogerie by sourcing movements that are adapted to their specific requirements.
Proof of La Joux-Perret’s new ambitions is a recently-inked partnership with Humbert-Droz. The company, which is based in Besançon, France, assembles components supplied by La Joux-Perret into G100 movements, including attaching the balance spring, primarily for the French market and its numerous up-and-coming brands – including the already well-respected March LA.B.